Wiseman: Redistributing seats in the House of Commons

Punchy commentary:

When governments redistribute seats in the House of Commons, they often claim they are doing what the public wants or acting in the interests of fairness. When Mike Harris’ Conservative government reduced the number of MPPs at Queen’s Park in 1996, they labelled their bill the Fewer Politicians Act. When Stephen Harper’s Conservatives increased seats in the Commons in 2011, they branded their bill the Fair Representation Act. To be consistent, Jim Flaherty, John Baird, and Tony Clement, senior cabinet ministers in both governments, ought to have termed their federal bill the More Politicians Act.

As required by law and shifts in the population, Elections Canada has determined that the House ought to expand by four seats, from 338 to 342, adding three seats for Alberta, one each for Ontario and British Columbia, and reducing Quebec’s seats by one, from 78 to 77.

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Rather than constantly enlarging the House as two acts of Parliament require—the 1985 grandfather clause and the 2011 representation rule—Parliament ought to keep to the constitutional principle established at Confederation: proportionate provincial representation. The only exception is the “senatorial clause,” added to the Constitution by Westminster in 1915, entitling provinces to no fewer MPs than Senators. Changing that rule requires the unanimous consent of the provinces and Parliament, an impossibility.

Parliament ought to repeal both the “grandfather clause” and the “representation rule.” Neither required the consent of provinces and neither requires provincial consent for revocation. Parliament should also consider reducing and fixing a permanent number of seats. If the United States can manage with 435 Congressional representatives for 334 million people, 250 MPs ought to be sufficient to represent Canada’s 38 million people. MPs fearful of losing their jobs will argue that they are essential to serving their constituents, but more constituency staff could easily do that.

MPs are elected to represent their constituents and the parties under whose banners they run. They are not elected to represent provinces. Senators are appointed to represent provincial interests. Premiers do it especially well. But premiers have no more business in the redistribution of Commons seats than the prime minister has in how seats are distributed in a province. The idea that MPs represent their province holds no water. If it did, MPs would vote along provincial lines. The reality is they vote strictly along party lines. What constituents or provincial legislatures prefer is secondary to the preferences of party whips.

The Bloc Québécois makes much of the fact that Parliament has recognized Quebec as a nation. Quebec Premier François Legault claims “the nation of Quebec deserves a certain level of representation” regardless of its population. This begs some questions including: Should Quebec’s First Nations be entitled to a certain level of representation in the National Assembly regardless of their population since the assembly has assigned the status of “nation” to eleven provincial aboriginal groups including the Inuit, Mohawk, Cree, Algonquin, and Naskapi? Carrying Quebec’s brief, Yves-François Blanchet, whose BQ rejected the 1992 Charlottetown Accord which guaranteed Quebec 25 per cent of Commons seats in perpetuity, is outraged at the prospect of his province losing a seat. He has promised to unleash the “fires of hell” if it does.

Pure laine (dyed in the wool) or de souche (old-stock) francophones may claim to be a nation, but Quebec is merely a territory. Stephen Harper’s description of the Québécois is appropriate: “a unique people bonded together by a common language, culture and history—a nation.” However, increasing numbers of Quebecers, like provincial Liberal leader Dominique Anglade, do not fit that definition. Mordechai Richler, whose writings are set in the province, was dismissed as “not one of us” and not a “real Quebecer” by the co-chair of Quebec’s Commission on the Political and Constitutional Future of Quebec. Jacques Parizeau infamously articulated the distinction between the Québécois de souche and other Quebecers when he declared that “money and the ethnic vote” had determined the outcome of Quebec’s 1995 referendum.

Bloc Québécois founder Lucien Bouchard claimed, “Canada is not a real country” on account of its multicultural complexion, and Quebec’s governments have rejected Canada’s multiculturalism policy. Quebec is certainly not a country and if it can make the claim to nationhood, why should not Saskatchewan? Yes, the French fact makes Quebec—the only jurisdiction on the continent where a majority are francophones—distinctive in a way that Saskatchewan is not, but the language of nationhood is inappropriate for both.

If Quebec must have more MPs than to which it is entitled, let Parliament adopt another feature of the United States Congress: non-voting members. All provinces, except Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, have lost seats in the past. Quebec is a cry baby in demanding overrepresentation and the federal political parties are too eager to cater to its howls.

Nelson Wiseman is the author of Partisan Odysseys: Canada’s Political Parties(University of Toronto Press).

Source: Redistributing seats in the House of Commons

New Parliament has some fresh, diverse faces, but is it enough?

Some good commentary by Erin Tolley. Agree with her that it would be preferable for the Library of Parliament to collect and maintain this data, as they do for women, Indigenous and those born outside Canada:

The number of visible minority MPs and of other historically marginalized communities in Canada’s 44th Parliament, which resumes Monday, Nov. 22, has notably increased, but some analysts question the depth of the changes. 

The number of Indigenous MPs went from 10 in 2019 to 12. There will be a total of eight Black MPs, including the five incumbent from the 2019 Parliament and three new additions.

Based on the validated and judicial recount results posted on Elections Canada website, the Liberals have 160 seats (up by three from 2019), the Conservatives 119 (down two), the NDP 25 (up one), the Bloc Québécois an unchanged 32, and the Greens two.  

Despite seemingly little change on the surface, the election yielded a relatively high turnover — bringing a total of 52 new MPs from all parties who will take their seats in the House of Commons for the first time. 

Critical twists

In at least six ridings where visible minorities were either incumbents or contenders, there were critical twists and turnarounds. 

Liberal Parm Bians unseated the Conservative Kenny Chiu in the riding of Richmond East. Paul Chiang unseated the Conservative Bob Saroya in Markham-Unionville. George Chahal defeated Jagdeep Kaur Sahota in Calgary Skyview, thus swaying an important seat for Liberals in the province of Alberta. Conservative Nelly Shin lost to the NDP candidate in Port Moody-Coquitlam, and the Conservative Michelle Ferreri defeated Maryam Monsef in Peterborough. 

The sixth important riding where visible minorities lost out to a third candidate was Kitchener-Centre, where the dropping out of the race of Raj Saini led to an easier win for the Green party candidate Mike Morris.      

Election 44 reflected the greatest diverse pool of candidates in any election thus far, and as a result, the new Parliament will have greater representation for many historically neglected communities. 

The new Parliament will have 103 female MPs, three more than the previous one, and women MPs in total now make up 30.5 per cent of the House of Commons, a slight increase from 29 per cent. 

For comparison, in 2015, there were 88 women MPs. The Liberal Party has increased its number of female MPs since then from 52 to 57. The NDPs have gone from nine to 11. For the Conservatives, the number of women remained steady at 22, as did the number for the Bloc Québécois at 12 and for the Greens at one. The 44th Parliament likewise marks an increase in LGBTQ2S+ MPs, with eight openly LGBTQ2S+ MPs elected, double the number from 2019.  

In the runup to the September election, a team of Carleton University researchers led by Erin Tolley, Canada research chair in gender, race and inclusive politics, launched a project to track candidate’s diversity. 

The dataset collected includes information about their gender, race, Indigenous background, age, occupation, and prior electoral experience, as well as riding, party, and province. 

Slow and incremental

But while there is visibly increased diversity, Tolley says the progress has been slow and incremental.  

“The snap election and short campaign likely had some impact on who ran for office this time around,” she told New Canadian Media. 

“We know that it takes longer to find and convince women, racialized and Indigenous candidates to run, not because they don’t want to but because politics historically has been inhospitable to them.”

Without being proactive, she says, another election might come sooner than we think. 

“If parties are serious about diversifying politics, they should already be laying out the groundwork, identifying promising candidates, encouraging them to run, and giving them the support they need to do so,” she says. 

Tolley also points out that, based on the observation of successive election cycles, racialized and Indigenous candidates remain somewhat pigeon-holed in a select number of ridings, mostly those with large racialized or Indigenous populations. This, according to her, creates a ceiling in terms of how many can be elected to Parliament. 

“We know that racialized and Indigenous candidates can win in a number of ridings, regardless of the riding’s demographic composition. Parties should think more broadly about the contexts in which they recruit diverse candidates so as not to limit their opportunities,” Tolley suggests. 

Reflecting on the makeup of the new Parliament, Andrew Griffith, a media commentator, policy analyst and the fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, likewise sees it as a “slow and steady progress,” both in terms of the number of visible minority candidates and elected MPs.  

He also considers that growing diversity is reflected in the new Cabinet that was announced on Oct. 26, and expects this to extend into Parliamentary secretaries. 

Not enough data 

Of the 338 candidates during the election, Liberals had 147 women running for office, 25 Indigenous,18 Black and another 50 visible minority candidates and 17 who identify as LGBTQ2S+.  

The Conservatives, out of 338 candidates in total, had 114 female candidates, their largest number so far. Of those, eight were Indigenous and Metis candidates. The Conservatives also had four LGBTQ2S+ candidates in this election. 

There were also 14 Black and 60 visible minority candidates, bringing the total of the non-white candidates to 74. The NDP had 177 women, 29 of them Indigenous. It had 104 visible minority candidates and 69 LGBTQ2S+ candidates. The Bloc Québécois had a total of 78 candidates, including 37 women, and 13 visible minority candidates, which albeit small, in comparison to others, was the most in the Party’s history. 

Based on the final tally of the candidates, the Liberals once again have the highest number and percentage of MPs, with 43 elected to serve. The Conservatives have six visible minority MPs. The NDP has three. One visible minority MP, a former Liberal candidate, won as an independent. 

Such figures, however, are not readily available as neither the Parliamentary Library nor the political parties put them out. 

Tolley is especially critical of the lack of institutionalized collection of demographic data on candidates or the racial backgrounds of MPs.  

“The Library of Parliament does publish information on women and Indigenous MPs, but nothing related to race. This leaves journalists and researchers without reliable and systematic data on diversity in parliament. That makes it difficult to track progress or hold parties accountable”, she says. 

The first item of business when Parliament resumes will be the election of the Speaker.

Source: https://newcanadianmedia.ca/new-parliament-has-some-fresh-diverse-faces-but-is-it-enough/

Wiseman: Taking on Quebec’s nationalists

Refreshing and courageous questioning:

The inability of Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau to speak French should raise a bigger question: why is Air Canada headquartered in Montreal? Based on the volume of flights, Air Canada’s de facto hub is Toronto. If geography is a consideration for a head office, Air Canada might want to think about relocating to Winnipeg where most of the corporation’s overhaul and maintenance work was done before being shifted to Montreal by Pierre Trudeau’s government in 1968. Outrage followed, damaging national unity: police had to clear a path for Trudeau as the airline’s Winnipeg employees swarmed around him, shouting anti-Quebec slogans at a Liberal fundraiser.

When Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives in 1987 awarded the lucrative CF-18 fighter maintenance and overhaul contract to a Montreal firm rather than to a Winnipeg firm whose bid was cheaper, technically superior, and recommended by the neutral federal bureaucracy, some westerners began to refer to Mulroney as Pierre Elliot Mulroney; he had broken his promise to award contracts based on business principles and not political expediency as he said the Trudeau Liberals had done.

Mulroney’s decision led directly to Preston Manning’s launch of the Reform Party, the first step leading to the demise of the Progressive Conservative party. In 1988, Mulroney’s government conditioned Air Canada’s privatization on its headquarters remaining in Montreal. Decisions by the Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments, their caucuses top heavy with Quebec MPs, discriminated in favour of Quebec.

After the Parti Québécois gained power in 1976 and the Quebec National Assembly passed the Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), making communicating in French with French-speaking staff at companies such as Sun Life Assurance mandatory, the company announced it was moving its headquarters from Montreal to Toronto. A political storm erupted; Michael Cassidy, the soon-to-become Ontario NDP leader called on Ontario’s Conservative minister of industry to resign for welcoming Sun Life’s relocation, while Trudeau said Bill 101 undermined Montreal’s historic role as a financial and commercial centre for national and international companies.

And that is what happened. Although both the Royal Bank of Canada and the Bank of Montreal kept their official “head office” in Montreal, not wanting to incur the wrath that Sun Life’s departure did, they shifted their management operations and “corporate headquarters,” their de facto head offices, to Toronto and to where their chief executives live. Trudeau warned that other companies might follow Sun Life’s lead if Bill 101 was not changed.

Justin Trudeau, who became Liberal leader and prime minister by the leverage his father’s name gave him, is not on the same page as his father.

Now, Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin CEO Ian Edwards has postponed a speech he was scheduled to give to Montreal’s Canadian Club. He knows that he will be pilloried as Rousseau has been for his deficiency in French, incurring a similar public relations nightmare. Rousseau and Edwards have said they will study French, but at their age—Rousseau is 61, Edwards 57—they will gain little practical command of it as a working language.

Although most of CNR’s operations are in Western Canada, its head office is also in Montreal. CNR CEO Jean-Jacques Ruest is a francophone but is soon to step down. Will candidates to replace Ruest be required to demonstrate that they are bilingual? Memphis-born Hunter Harrison, famous for introducing precision scheduled railroading and leading the CNR to record profits, promised to learn French when he was the corporation’s CEO, but there is no record of his ever having spoken it.

When the Official Languages Act was introduced in the 1960s, the Trudeau government assured Canadians that it simply entitled them to deal with and be served by the federal government and its crown corporations, like Air Canada and the CNR at the time, in their preferred official language. The law does not require their CEOs or board members of federally regulated industries to have a working command of both official languages.

The French language is not in danger in Quebec as Quebec nationalists would have you believe; the percentage of Quebecers speaking French at home has not declined. However, Quebec’s share of Canada’s population has been steadily shrinking, accelerated by François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec government which has cut the number of immigrants to the province.

Unilingual anglophones like myself have noticed how the federal political parties have tip-toed around Quebec and the CAQ’s positions, such as the ban on schoolteachers’ and public servants’ religious headgear, violations of the Charter of Rights. And there is Bill 96 which claims to unilaterally change the Canadian Constitution, which Pierre Trudeau said would last for a thousand years. Where, oh where is Justin Trudeau?

Had Erin O’Toole taken on Quebec’s nationalists, perhaps his Conservatives would have done better in the election. Kow-towing obviously didn’t work.

Nelson Wiseman is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto.

Source: Taking on Quebec’s nationalists

Who voted for the People’s Party of Canada? Anti-vaxxers and those opposed to vaccine mandates

Preliminary analysis. Will be interesting to see what others come up with such as the Canada Election Study. As it is likely that COVID and vaccination will not be a top issue (we hope!) in the next election, likely the PPC will focus on immigration and other related issues, and their advocacy for more restrictive policies:

At first glance, the 2021 federal election appears to have changed very little. Each party was returned to the House of Commons with about as many seats as it had previously held. 

Beneath the surface, however, some shifts occurred. Most notably, while the People’s Party of Canada failed to win any seats, its share of the popular vote grew to five per cent — more than double what it earned two years earlier.

The PPC’s support is small yet not easily dismissed. The 841,000 votes it earned makes it the fifth most popular party in the country, well ahead of the Greens (who have appeared on the ballot, addressing the prominent issue of climate change, for decades). The People’s Party won three times more votes than the Reform Party did when it first fielded candidates in 1988, one election prior to its breakthrough in 1993.

Understanding exactly what to make of the PPC’s growing support is especially important for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada. If PPC voters are former Conservative supporters disappointed with the party’s attempt to appeal to middle-of-the-road, suburban Canadians, it signals a serious dilemma — each voter the Conservatives gain by moving to the centre could be matched by a right-leaning voter lost to the PPC.

PPC voters bemoan ‘loss of freedom’

What, then, do we know about PPC voters? At first glance, our fall 2021 survey shows PPC voters have the profile many would expect. They’re dissatisfied with the way things are going in our country today, feel the economy is getting weaker, think there are too many immigrants coming to Canada who don’t adopt the country’s values and hold a favourable opinion of the United States.

Yet these opinions do not really set them apart. Most Conservative Party supporters also hold these views. What does distinguish current PPC voters is their views on the COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically on the issue of vaccination, vaccine mandates and vaccine passports. 

Our survey, conducted during the 2021 election campaign, asked Canadians to identify the most important problem facing the country today. 

Both Liberal and Conservative Party supporters were most likely to mention the COVID-19 pandemic in general. Climate change was most likely to be mentioned as the most important problem by NDP, Bloc Québécois and Green Party supporters. 

But for PPC supporters, the No. 1 issue was the loss of freedom stemming from vaccine mandates — a concern barely mentioned by anyone who supported other parties. 

A more rigorous analysis of the survey results, which tests the significance of different factors while holding others constant, confirms the importance of vaccination issues to current PPC voters. 

Someone who singled out “loss of freedom” during the pandemic as the most important issue facing the country had a 59 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to only a five per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue. 

Similarly, someone who singled out “COVID-19 vaccination issues” as the most important issue facing the country had a 44 per cent chance of supporting the PPC, compared to a six per cent chance for someone who mentioned any other issue. 

Immigration not a decisive factor

This last example, furthermore, likely underestimates the impact of PPC voters’ irritation with vaccination requirements. It can be assumed that the very few number of Liberals who also singled out “COVID-19 vaccination issues” as the most important issue probably had something very different in mind — perhaps frustration with those who won’t get vaccinated — than their PPC counterparts. 

Nonetheless, the main point is clear: voters concerned about the push to be vaccinated and what they perceive as a loss of freedom during the pandemic were much more likely to vote PPC than voters concerned about anything else. 

Equally important is the finding that PPC voters stand out much less for their attitudes on immigration. The impact of immigration views on someone’s likelihood of supporting the PPC is barely significant, in stark contrast to their opinions on vaccination.

This does not mean that PPC voters are strong supporters of immigration; rather, it means simply that their views on the subject do not differentiate supporters of the PPC from supporters of some other parties — notably, the Conservatives. 

Incidentally, it should be noted these findings apply only to Canadians indicating they intended to vote for the PPC, not to the party’s leadership, organizers or funders who may regard closing our borders to newcomers as more of a priority.

A message for Conservatives

Nonetheless, the fact that the growth in PPC support is tied to the unusual issue of vaccination against COVID-19 is no guarantee that the party’s popularity will fade once the pandemic ends. Other issues may come along to take its place. 

But it does send a cautionary note to Conservatives who might be wondering what the party can do to bring PPC voters back into the fold. Rejecting new policies on climate change or social diversity is unlikely to help so long as PPC supporters continue to be motivated largely by a single issue — their opposition to vaccines. 

As the election outcome itself showed, showing flexibility on vaccine mandates in order to win back defectors to the PPC risks putting more distance between the Conservative Party and the mainstream of Canadian public opinion

In short, PPC voters were not simply typical Conservative supporters leaning furthest to the right on a range of issues that include government spending, taxation, climate change and immigration. They were, on average, a unique cluster of voters who have rejected the overwhelming public consensus on the need to be vaccinated to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The growth potential for the Conservative Party lies not in chasing the small number of voters angered by vaccine mandates, but in appealing to the much larger pool of voters whose top priorities include bringing the pandemic to an end and refocusing attention on the fight against climate change.

Source: https://theconversationcanada.cmail19.com/t/r-l-triyyhjl-kyldjlthkt-n/

Coren: Religion and politics shouldn’t mix when it comes to COVID-19

Another good commentary by Coren, with any number of political commentators pronouncing on the impact on the CPC and its leader:

Anybody who assumed that the struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic would be purely medical and humanitarian clearly didn’t quite grasp the dark depths of politics and religion. From the moment we knew that a deadly plague was smothering the world, those with warped agendas were as animated as a squirrel in a peanut store.

Enter the conspiracy theorists and the paranoid hysterics, claiming that the virus was either a hoax, a plot to reduce and control the population, or the beginnings of the “great reset.” And that vaccines are weapons of Satan, the mark of the beast, and developed from fetal stem-cells and thus — in their words — “the product of the abortion genocide.”

These Christian fundamentalists and libertarian fanatics are dismissed by almost every responsible religious figure, from the Pope to the Chief Rabbi, and by all political leaders worth the name. But not by all, and not everywhere — including Canada.

A small but galvanized set of right-wing church leaders resist vaccines and masks, and their activism has bled through into Canadian conservatism. Federal Tory leader Erin O’Toole and most Conservative provincial leaders may disagree with these people, but they also know that their base is swamped in denial lunacy. If they’re too bold in condemning anti-vaccine zealots, or in any way supportive of vaccine mandates, they could see their leadership challenged and even defeated.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s refusal to demand vaccinations for those working in health care, in spite of the advice of experts, is an obvious case. Ford is more secure than O’Toole, but he has long relied on the Christian right and owes them far too much to risk their anger, especially with an election so close.

Erin O’Toole’s decision not to require that all Conservative MPs be vaccinated against COVID-19 has annoyed many of his caucus, but placated those who see him as far too liberal on their chosen obsessions. Yet he still hasn’t gone far enough for many. At the end of last week it was announced that a group of 15 to 30 Conservative MPs and senators intended to start a “civil liberties caucus.” Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu says that it will speak for those who may be losing their jobs for refusing to be vaccinated.

It’s a tangible threat to the leader, already in a precarious position, and there are a number of potential rivals waiting in the shadows. One of the more prominent and ambitious is Leslyn Lewis, the newly minted MP for Haldimand-Norfolk. She did extremely well in the party’s leadership contest, and her candidacy was supported by a number of socially conservative groups who now oppose vaccines. She’s the darling of religious conservatives, with some “interesting” opinions on many of the issues that the Tory base in rural Ontario and Western Canada still consider vital. When I mentioned her views in a column more than a year ago she immediately blocked me on social media, and I was harshly attacked by some of her supporters. In other words, she’s not someone to take lightly.

One of the ironies of all this is that for a party that boasts of its patriotism, this new conservatism is far more American than Canadian. The progressive Toryism of former years, one that had far more in common with conservative parties in northern Europe and Britain, was abandoned long ago, and Canadian conservatives now look south to the U.S. Republicans. That party, in turn, has had to bend to the Christian right, because without that vote no Republican can ever hope to become president.

The conservative Christian world is much smaller in Canada, but it’s far from insignificant and punches well above its weight. It’s also become more energized and organized in the last 15 years, largely because it sees what has been achieved in the U.S. Canadian right-wingers witness the victory of Donald Trump and other hardline leaders and regard it as a triumph. The truth, however, is that the crisis faced by modern Christianity is largely due to its perversion by the very people so revered by the Canadian conservatives who are currently influencing policies on vaccines and public health.

Religion and politics. Pray, and pray hard, that in this case they stop mixing.

Source: Religion and politics shouldn’t mix when it comes to COVID-19

PEN: Educational Gag Orders-Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn and Teach


Today PEN America released a report on an alarming trend mounting across the country to impose legislative limitations on teaching and learning on topics including race, gender, and American history. In the first nine months of 2021, 24 state legislatures introduced 54 bills that would restrict teaching and training in K-12 schools, public colleges and universities, and/or state agencies and institutions. Eleven of those bills have become laws in nine states. These bills reflect raging debates underway in communities across the country that came to a head during last week’s gubernatorial election in Virginia and are dominating discussions in school boards and faculty lounges nationwide.

For those concerned about the impact on the higher education sector, 21 of the bills introduced or pre-filed explicitly apply to colleges and universities. Of these, 16 explicitly impose restrictions on academic courses or curricula, and 10 explicitly address training for college students or employees. Ten bills explicitly targeting academic college-level teaching are pending or have been pre-filed for 2022.

This legislative wave followed the mass protests that swept the United States in 2020 in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, and the reckonings initiated to come to grips with the lingering legacy of racial injustice.
Efforts to delve into and more thoroughly address the role that slavery, race, and racism play in American society implicate complex questions relating to history, politics, and human relations. Rather than engaging in reasoned debate on these critical issues, the bills and laws documented in our report seek to shut down discourse through legislative fiat. We label these measures “educational gag orders,” a reflection of their censorious effect that imposes viewpoint-based constrictions on what can be discussed in American classrooms.

PEN America calls on all those who believe in free speech to oppose these efforts to silence discussion and debate through force of law.Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach examines these bills in depth. Many would punish educators, colleges, schools, and districts that dare to cover excluded topics. The report documents how these bills and laws have already had a chilling effect on campuses and in classrooms across the country, on both open discourse and academic freedom, and risk further muzzling vital societal discourse on racism, sexism, and the complexities of American history.

Educational Gag Orders: Legislative Restrictions on the Freedom to Read, Learn, and Teach examines these bills in depth. Many would punish educators, colleges, schools, and districts that dare to cover excluded topics. The report documents how these bills and laws have already had a chilling effect on campuses and in classrooms across the country, on both open discourse and academic freedom, and risk further muzzling vital societal discourse on racism, sexism, and the complexities of American history.

Source: https://b46674ee0d922ea3560b2c63b8d5fa34.tinyemails.com/21e22508c148a3777f075d12b9411cca/8e7676d24e8e81dc149a24f1e883a04d.html

How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump

Good long read:

The CEOs started calling before President Trump had even finished speaking. What America’s titans of industry were hearing from the Commander in Chief was sending them into a panic.

It was Nov. 5, 2020, two days after the election, and things weren’t looking good for the incumbent as states continued to count ballots. Trump was eager to seed a different narrative, one with no grounding in reality: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he said from the lectern of the White House Briefing Room. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

The speech was so dangerously dishonest that within a few minutes, all three broadcast television networks spontaneously stopped airing it. And at his home in Branford, Conn., the iPhone belonging to the Yale School of Management professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld began to buzz with calls and texts from some of the nation’s most powerful tycoons.

The CEOs of leading media, financial, pharmaceutical, retail and consulting firms all wanted to talk. By the time Tom Rogers, the founder of CNBC, got to Sonnenfeld, “he had clearly gotten dozens of calls,” Rogers says. “We were saying, ‘This is real—Trump is trying to overturn the election.’ Something had to happen fast.”

For decades, Sonnenfeld has been bringing business leaders together for well-attended seminars on the challenges of leadership, earning a reputation as a “CEO whisperer.” A committed capitalist and self-described centrist, he has informally advised Presidents of both parties and spoke at Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s wedding. Now he suggested the callers get together to make a public statement, perhaps through their normal political channels, D.C. industry lobbies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable (BRT). But the CEOs wanted Sonnenfeld to do it; the trade groups, they fretted, were too risk-averse and bureaucratic. And they wanted to do it right away: when Sonnenfeld, who issues invitations for his summits eight months in advance in order to secure a slot on CEOs’ busy calendars, suggested a Zoom call the following week, they said that might be too late.

The group of 45 CEOs who assembled less than 12 hours later, at 7 a.m. on Nov. 6, represented nearly one-third of Fortune’s 100 largest companies: Walmart and Cowen Inc., Johnson & Johnson and Comcast, Blackstone Group and American Airlines. Disney’s Bob Iger rolled out of bed at 4 a.m. Pacific time to join, accompanied by a large mug of coffee. (Sonnenfeld, who promised the participants confidentiality, declined to disclose or confirm their names, but TIME spoke with more than a dozen people on the call, who confirmed their and others’ participation.)

The meeting began with a presentation from Sonnenfeld’s Yale colleague Timothy Snyder, the prominent historian of authoritarianism and author of On Tyranny. Snyder did not beat around the bush. What they were witnessing, he said, was the beginning of a coup attempt.

“I went through it point by point, in a methodical way,” recalls Snyder, who has never previously discussed the episode. “Historically speaking, democracies are usually overthrown from the inside, and it is very common for an election to be the trigger for a head of state or government to declare some kind of emergency in which the normal rules do not apply. This is a pattern we know, and the name for this is a coup d’état.” What was crucial, Snyder said, was for civil society to respond quickly and clearly. And business leaders, he noted, have been among the most important groups in determining whether such attempts succeeded in other countries. “If you are going to defeat a coup, you have to move right away,” he says. “The timing and the clarity of response are very, very important.”

A lively discussion ensued. Some of the more conservative executives, such as Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, wondered if the threat was being overstated, or echoed Trump’s view that late ballots in Pennsylvania seemed suspicious. Yet others corrected them, pointing out that COVID-19 had led to a flood of mail-in ballots that by law could not be counted until the polls closed. By the end of the hour, the group had come to agreement that their normal political goals—lower taxes, less regulation—weren’t worth much without a stable democracy underpinning them. “The market economy works because of the bedrock foundation of the rule of law, the peaceful succession of power and the reserve currency of the U.S. dollar, and all of these things were potentially at risk,” former Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer tells TIME. “CEOs are normally hesitant to get involved in political issues, but I would argue that this was a fundamental business issue.”

The group agreed on the elements of a statement to be released as soon as media organizations called the election. It would congratulate the winner and laud the unprecedented voter turnout; call for any disputes to be based on evidence and brought through the normal channels; observe that no such evidence had emerged; and insist on an orderly transition. Midday on Nov. 7, when the election was finally called, the BRT immediately released a version of the statement formulated on Zoom. It was followed quickly by other trade groups, corporations and political leaders around the world, all echoing the same clear and decisive language confirming the election result.

Sonnenfeld thought the hastily convened “Business Leaders for National Unity,” as he’d grandly dubbed the 7 a.m. call, would be a one-off. But Trump’s effort to overturn the election persisted. So in the ensuing weeks, the professor called the executives together again and again, to address Trump’s attempt to interfere with Georgia’s vote count and the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. “This was an event which violated those rituals of America and created a visceral reaction,” Nick Pinchuk, CEO of the Kenosha, Wis.–based toolmaker Snap-on, tells TIME. “Talking about this, it kind of transformed from the realm of politics to the realm of civic duty. CEOs wanted to speak out about this, and Jeff gave us a way to do that.”

To Sonnenfeld, the effort—much of which has not been previously reported—underlined a generational shift taking place in the collective civic attitudes of the CEO class. Its effects are evident in Washington, where Big Business’s longtime alliance with the Republican Party is foundering. Congressional Republicans have divorced the Chamber of Commerce; the GOP’s corporate fundraising is diminished; Fox News anchors and conservative firebrands rant about “woke capital” and call for punitive, anti-free-market policies in retaliation. Many of the companies and business groups that implacably resisted Barack Obama have proved surprisingly friendly to Biden, backing portions of his big-spending domestic agenda and supporting his COVID-19 mandates for private companies. Political observers of both parties have tended to attribute these developments to the pressures companies face, whether externally from consumers or internally from their employees. But Sonnenfeld, who is in a position to know, argues that just as much of it comes from the changing views of the CEOs themselves.

Snyder, the scholar of authoritarianism, believes the CEOs’ intervention was crucial in ensuring Trump left office on schedule, if not bloodlessly. “If business leaders had just drifted along in that moment, or if a few had broken ranks, it might have gone very differently,” he says. “They chose in that moment to see themselves as part of civil society, acting in the defense of democracy for its own sake.”

It was perhaps inevitable that Trump, the corporate-showman President, would force the private sector to reconsider its duty to society—and that Sonnenfeld would be the one to force the issue. For 2020 was not the two men’s first confrontation. Back in the mogul’s reality TV days, the business guru was a harsh critic—before burying the hatchet and giving Trump the idea for Celebrity Apprentice.

A Philadelphia native, Sonnenfeld, 67, was drawn from an early age to the human side of business. “He was always irrepressible, uninhibited—just a barrel of monkeys,” recalls the public relations guru Richard Edelman, who rowed crew with Sonnenfeld at Harvard. “You always knew he would be either a politician or a professor, not one of the gray-suited soldiers coming out of Harvard Business School.”

Sonnenfeld authored several scholarly publications before his 1988 book, The Hero’s Farewell: What Happens When CEOs Retire, became a surprise best seller. CEOs sought his counsel, and he realized they were starving for such insights: surrounded by subordinates and yes-men, powerful executives had plenty of opportunities to pontificate but few venues for learning from their peers. Yet Sonnenfeld’s interest in leadership psychology was unfashionable in an M.B.A. field focused on the technical workings of companies and markets. Denied tenure at Harvard, he started his “CEO College” at Emory University in 1989. After a decade, he moved it to Yale, where his Chief Executive Leadership Institute helped put its School of Management on the map. Today, Sonnenfeld’s executive seminars have many imitators, including CEO summits put on by Forbes, Fortune, Bloomberg and the New York Times.

When The Apprentice premiered in 2004, Sonnenfeld reviewed it for the Wall Street Journal. The show, he wrote, was teaching aspiring leaders precisely the wrong lessons while fueling public disdain for business. “The selection process resembles a game of musical chairs at a Hooters restaurant,” he wrote. “No new goods or services are created, no business innovations surface, and no societal problems are solved.” A real-life leader who tried to run a business that way would quickly fail, he added.

Trump fired back, insulting Sonnenfeld as a know-nothing academic. But he also tried to win him over, offering Sonnenfeld the presidency of Trump University, which he turned down, and an invitation to his Westchester golf club, which he accepted. Over lunch, Sonnenfeld said he’d stop criticizing the show if the players were cranky B-list celebrities instead of earnest young strivers. Trump liked the idea, and the following season he transitioned to an all-celebrity cast.

Sonnenfeld finally gave in to Trump’s pestering and invited him to one of his CEO summits at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel. “You would have thought it was the Pope, people were so amazed,” Sonnenfeld recalls. “But at the same time, the top tier of CEOs told me, ‘When he walks in, we’re walking out.’ And they did.” After Trump won the presidency, Sonnenfeld paid him a visit at Trump Tower and reminded him of the incident. “Funny thing about that, Jeff,” Trump said, “they’re all coming by here now.”

Over the course of the 2016 campaign, Sonnenfeld’s surveys of his seminar participants found that although around 75% identified as Republicans, 75% to 80% supported Hillary Clinton, he says. And while many were optimistic about Trump’s pro-business Administration, their enthusiasm soon dimmed. It wasn’t just the chaotic way he operated; he seemed determined to pit them against one another. “I started hearing from the CEOs of Lockheed and Boeing, saying, ‘Wait, he’s trying, over chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago, to get a fight going between us over the cost of a fighter jet,’” Sonnenfeld recalls. It was the same with Ford vs. GM, Pfizer vs. Merck.

Sonnenfeld realized Trump was repeating the tactics from The Apprentice,the same zero-sum mentality that had buoyed him to political success: divide and conquer. “Trump’s whole modus operandi, his one trick his whole life, is to break collective action,” Sonnenfeld says. “The whole NAFTA battle was pitting Canada against Mexico. He constantly tried to divide France and Germany, the U.K. vs. the E.U., Russia vs. China. He tried to build up Bernie vs. Hillary, just like he did with the Republican primary candidates. As pathetically puerile a device as it is, with the GOP it worked magnificently well.”

But business leaders, unlike the Republicans, banded together to resist. In August 2017, when Trump opined that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the deadly white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, who is Black, announced that he would step down from Trump’s American Manufacturing Council. Others—some prodded by Sonnenfeld behind the scenes—quickly followed. Within a few days, that council, along with another business advisory group, had disbanded. It was, Sonnenfeld says, the first time in history that the business community turned its back on a President’s call to service.

“He lost the business community in Charlottesville,” says Matthias Berninger, who heads public affairs for Bayer. “Ken leaving his council, that was the starting point of everything that followed.” Deregulatory actions Trump expected Big Business to appreciate were rebuffed: oil and gas companies publicly opposed his repeal of methane regulations, and many utilities shrugged off his rollback of CO₂ limits. The auto industry united against Trump’s attempt to eliminate mileage standards, only to be investigated by the Department of Justice.

Trump’s antagonism to immigration and free trade ran counter to business’s interests, says the D.C. corporate fixer and former GOP strategist Juleanna Glover. “Many corporations and CEOs had an abiding fear of being attacked in a Trump tweet, so staying out of Washington was a good risk-mitigation strategy,” she says. “The Republicans have largely abandoned their pro-business values, and it’s hard to negotiate in good faith when one of the parties is seen as continuing to undermine democratic values.”

Trump may have been the catalyst. But the recent shift of the corporate class is only the latest in the long history of Big Business’s dance with Washington.

While many remember the robber barons of the Gilded Age, the same era produced a generation of innovative entrepreneurs (Thomas Edison, Luther Burbank) who were folk heroes. “The business leaders of the early to mid-1900s were the original ‘progressives,’” Sonnenfeld says. “They were for infrastructure, sustainability, safe workplaces, urban beautification, immigration.” Midcentury CEOs saw themselves as patriotic industrialists, allies of government and builders of society. During- the World Wars, they famously answered the call to contribute. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower appointed three sitting CEOs to his Cabinet.

By the 1970s, pollution and price-fixing scandals had tanked Big Business’s image. A few CEOs decided to break with the conservative politics of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers and came together to found the BRT. But the succeeding generation, in Sonnenfeld’s view, didn’t live up to the BRT’s original promise of civic virtue, focusing instead on attacking government interference and avoiding taxation. “It wasn’t that we had a few bad apples,” Sonnenfeld says. “There’s something wrong with the whole orchard in that period.”

The tech bust, corporate scandals such as Enron and the 2008 financial crisispushed Americans’ esteem of business to historic lows. When the Obama Administration tried to get health care companies on board with the Affordable Care Act, not a single member of the industry came to the table. “They were like little kids throwing stones and hiding in the hedges,” Sonnenfeld says. “The business community was not trying to solve problems.”

But over the past decade, Sonnenfeld believes, a new generation of leaders has stepped into the public sphere to do well by doing good. In 2015, opposition from corporations like Eli Lilly and Anthem helped kill a proposed Indiana state law that would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay people. The following year, American Airlines, Microsoft and GE were among the companies protesting a North Carolina ordinance barring transgender people from using their preferred bathrooms. Similar bills were defeated in Texas and Arkansas. The business leaders who thwarted these efforts weren’t just stereotypically “liberal” corporate behemoths like Apple, Starbucks and Nike, Sonnenfeld notes. “It was the bedrock of traditional American industry in the heartland: UPS, Walmart, AT&T. They’re the ones who led the charge, saying, ‘This is not America. We don’t want our workforces divided over this.’”

Today, Wall Street firms grade companies on their climate and diversity initiatives as well as their balance sheets. In the wake of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., both Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart announced they would no longer sell assault weapons or ammunition. Dozens of companies cut ties with the NRA. In 2019, the BRT revised its charter to redefine “the purpose of a corporation,” saying companies should be accountable not only to their shareholders but also to the wider array of “stakeholders,” including customers, employees, suppliers and communities.

“The role of the CEO has changed, and I don’t think anyone can sit on the sidelines,” says Paul Polman, the London-based former CEO of the consumer-goods giant Unilever, whose new book, Net Positive, argues that sustainability can go hand in hand with profit—one of a raft of recent do-gooder tomes by CEOs (including Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, the co-owner of TIME). Under Polman’s leadership, Unilever set ambitious climate goals and sought to improve its human-rights record, lobbying against the death penalty for gay people in Uganda and deforestation in Brazil. “Smart CEOs realize that their business cannot function in societies that don’t function,” Polman tells TIME. “We have to be responsible and speak up, not just lobby in our own self-interest.”

Skeptics on the left see this kind of talk as cynical posturing. Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren denounced the BRT’s “stakeholder” announcement as an “empty gesture,” and former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called it a “con.” Many of the statement’s signatories, liberals note, still preside over abysmal working conditions, environmental violations and racially segregated workplaces, while employing armies of lobbyists to resist government attempts to hold them accountable.

The right has revolted as well. GOP Senator Marco Rubio decries “woke corporate hypocrites,” while Trump has taken up the slogan “Go woke, go broke!” In the new book Woke, Inc., Vivek Ramaswamy, a tech entrepreneur turned self-styled class traitor, decries “corporate America’s game of pretending to care about justice in order to make money.”

The public, too, appears skeptical. In recent research conducted by Edelman, 44% of Americans say they trust CEOs to do the right thing, about on par with government leaders (42%) but lagging behind clergy (49%) and journalists (50%). A far greater share, nearly three-quarters of employees, trust the CEO of the company they work for.

In the spring of 2020, as the spread of COVID and Trump’s attempt to undermine the vote began to raise fears of an election meltdown, Sonnenfeld began privately raising the issue with prominent CEOs. He urged them to promote political participation to their employees and customers. For the first time, thousands of companies gave millions of workers paid time off to vote and volunteer at the polls. By October 2020, you could scarcely visit a retailer or open a mobile app without encountering a pro-voting, nonpartisan corporate message.

After the CEOs’ Nov. 7 statement, many—including Sonnenfeld—assumed their work was done. Despite Trump’s refusal to concede, dozens of courts rejected his challenges, all 50 states certified their electoral votes, and the presidential transition began. But on Jan. 3, the Washington Post published a recording of Trump’s phone call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, in which he cajoled and berated the election official to “find” the nearly 12,000 votes it would take to reverse his loss of the state.

So on Jan. 5, Sonnenfeld reconvened his executives. This Zoom was better attended than the first, with nearly 60 CEOs—and more concerned. Nobody quibbled with the “coup” terminology this time. There were CEOs Sonnenfeld had never met who had demanded invites after hearing about the November call. There were right-wing executives and former Obama and Bush Cabinet secretaries. The group voted unanimously to suspend donations to the GOP members of Congress who contested the election.

The next day, Jan. 6, validated their fears. In the aftermath of the Capitol riot, the group met again, and this time, 100% of the CEOs favored impeachment, Sonnenfeld says. The National Association of Manufacturers, known as the most conservative of the major trade lobbies, subsequently called for impeachment publicly, to the political world’s astonishment. Nearly a year later, 78% of the companies that pledged to withhold donations have kept true to their word, according to Sonnenfeld’s analysis of the latest campaign-finance data. One D.C.-based fundraiser for Republican candidates tells TIME she has virtually given up seeking money from corporate PACs as a result.

Sonnenfeld’s efforts didn’t end with Biden’s Inauguration. He was particularly disturbed by the election law the Georgia legislature began considering in the spring, one of many GOP-backed measures to make it harder to vote and easier to interfere with vote counting in future elections. In 1964, it was the former president of Coca-Cola who publicly shamed the white Atlanta business community into honoring Martin Luther King Jr. after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Now Georgia’s 34 Fortune 1000 companies were largely silent in the face of a modern civil rights issue. In late March, Sonnenfeld and a former UPS executive penned a joint Newsweek op-ed calling out their “cowardice.”

On a subsequent Zoom, two leading Black executives, Merck’s Frazier and Kenneth Chenault of American Express, got more than 100 fellow CEOs to sign on to a statement opposing the Georgia voting law, which was published as a full-page ad in the New York Times and Washington Post.“The people who signed the letter did so because they didn’t see it as a partisan issue,” Frazier tells TIME. “They felt, as business leaders, that they shouldn’t stand on the sideline when our fundamental rights as Americans are at stake.”

But these moves also sparked a political backlash. Executives who had interceded during the election’s aftermath began to fall away from the group, leery of liberal activists seeking to apply similar pressure on other issues, like Texas’ new abortion law. The coalition that rallied with such alacrity to defend American democracy now appears splintered, unsure of the extent of the continuing threat or how to confront it.

“I really thought Jan. 6 was a turning point, a tipping point, but now I think maybe it was just an inflection point,” says Mia Mends, the Houston-based CEO of Impact Ventures at global food–services giant Sodexo. Companies including hers that spoke out against voting restrictions in Texas faced threats of retaliation from state GOP officials. “When that day of reckoning comes, on what side will you be? On what side were you?”

There have been no more pop-up Zooms. Sonnenfeld is back to his old grind, gathering CEOs and nudging them toward public-spiritedness. On a recent Tuesday in New Haven, he led a frenetic virtual discussion with the leaders of Starbucks, United, Xerox, Dell, Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Duke Energy and others, along with members of Congress and current and former Administration officials from both parties. Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC Entertainment, dialed in from his bedroom, looking disheveled, only to be hit with an aggressive Sonnenfeld question about whether the tech-stock mania that had sent his company’s value skyrocketing was really a scam.

Sonnenfeld understands that the CEOs feel whipsawed by the political chaos. “They’re being pelted with so many different causes,” he tells me after the Zoom, his town car speeding to the airport so he can make a board meeting in Miami. But he is scathing in his contempt for financiers who have ostentatiously embraced socially conscious investing while failing to speak up on voting and democracy issues. “The sheer, screaming cowardice of these institutional investors—they own 80% of corporate America, and they never miss a stage to proclaim their commitments to [environmental and social justice],” he says. “Where are they now? Why are they the last to take a stand?”

Yet Sonnenfeld has no doubt that having stepped up for democracy at a crucial time, the CEOs would do it again. “The GOP has created these wedge issues to divide society, and the business community is saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not us, those are not our interests,’” he says. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to rush off and support Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Party. But they’re trying to break free and find their own way.”

Source: How Big Business Got Woke and Dumped Trump

Ibbitson: Trudeau’s decision over Quebec’s seats puts him at risk either way

Expect government will bend with no opposition from other parties, given precedents of Bills 21 and 96, even if questionable to do so:

When Justin Trudeau returns from his European travels, he will need to decide, and quickly, whether to prevent Quebec from losing a seat in the House of Commons.

Politically, all options are bad for the Prime Minister.

Back in 2011, Stephen Harper’s Conservative government moved to correct the problem of chronic underrepresentation in the House of Commons for the fast-growing provinces of Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. In the final version of the formula enshrined in the Fair Representation Act, Quebec was also awarded extra seats, to ensure its representation in the House fairly reflected its share of the national population.

As required by law and the Constitution, Elections Canada applied the 2011 formula for its latest calculation of the distribution of seats in Parliament. The results, released two weeks ago, show the House of Commons growing by four seats, from 338 to 342. Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario will receive additional seats. But Quebec will have one seat taken away, reducing its representation from 78 to 77.

Not surprisingly, the Bloc Québécois and the Quebec government are demanding that the province’s representation not diminish, on the grounds that its MPs have a special mandate in the House to speak for and protect Quebec’s culture and language.

The Liberal government has two options. The first is to do nothing and allow Elections Canada to proceed with redistribution by establishing electoral commissions for each province that will redraw riding boundaries based on the latest census data. That process is scheduled to begin in February.

The second option is to introduce a new redistribution formula through legislation. That formula could ensure that Quebec’s seat count does not fall below its current 78 seats, though the province’s relative weight would decline as the House expands in size.

As an alternative, the formula could guarantee that Quebec’s representation never drops below, say, 25 per cent of all seats in the House. That was a provision in the Charlottetown accord of 1992, which was defeated in a referendum.

Any legislation would need to be introduced soon, so that Elections Canada knows whether, when and how to proceed with redistribution. But moving to protect Quebec’s interests will prove contentious.

“There’s risk if he does do it and there’s risk if he doesn’t do it,” Professor Lori Turnbull, director of the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University, told me. Allowing the existing representation order to stand would anger Quebec voters, who would face a future of steadily weakening influence in Ottawa.

But moving to protect Quebec’s standing in the House would further anger Western voters who believe French Canada’s interests are protected while theirs are ignored.

This is especially true in the wake of the new cabinet announced last week, which weakened Prairie influence and emphasized the fight against climate change over oil-and-gas interests.

When asked how he would address the problem, Benjamin Forest, who researches the political representation of minorities at McGill University, said, “I would take the easy way out and add enough seats” so that Quebec once again has 78 seats in the House.

Many voters complain about sending more and more MPs to Ottawa. But Canada itself is growing, adding a million people every two or three years, mostly through immigration. The House should reflect that growth.

As well, previous federal governments at different times guaranteed smaller provinces a minimum number of seats, resulting in a House of Commons skewed in favour of rural interests. The riding of Cardigan, Prince Edward Island, has a population of just over 36,000; Cypress Hills—Grasslands in Saskatchewan has 68,000. But Vancouver East has 110,000 and the riding of Burlington, in Greater Toronto, has 121,000.

Adding more urban seats would make the House more democratic by diminishing the relative weight of the countryside, and increasing the importance of urban issues, such as transit, over rural, such as dairy supports.

Of course the best solution to Quebec’s declining demographic influence in the House would be for the province to increase its population through immigration. Instead, Premier François Legault has cut back on immigration. So long as that continues, the influence of Quebec must ultimately decline, however much politicians rejig the House of Commons to prevent it.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-trudeaus-decision-over-quebecs-seats-puts-him-at-risk-either-way/

Globe editorial: This is a story about race in Canadian politics. And it’s hopeful

Agree. Recent federal election largely confirms:

This is not a story about race.

But to understand how it isn’t, we have to talk about how, in another, less successful country, it could be.

In 2016, the census found that 31 per cent the residents of the City of Calgary were immigrants. Thirty-six per cent of the population were members of a visible minority, including 9.5 per cent who were South Asian. The picture is almost exactly the same in Edmonton: 30 per cent of residents are immigrants and 37 per cent are visible minorities, including 9.5 per cent who identify as South Asian.

Two weeks ago, the people of Edmonton and Calgary went to the polls and elected new mayors. Both were born outside of Canada. Jyoti Gondek, Calgary’s top magistrate, was born in England to parents of Punjabi descent and came to this country as a child; Edmonton’s Amarjeet Sohi was born in India and immigrated in his teens. On the census, both would be counted among the roughly one in 10 city residents of South Asian descent.

We bring up race not because it was an issue in the elections of Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi, but because it was not. And let us give thanks for that.

In many other countries – less happy, less peaceful countries – the story would have been very different. There, race, religion or ethnicity are the basis for politics. Sectarian divides slice through the possibility of shared citizenship, with lives and politics organized along those lines.

That’s how much of the world is. (Ask an immigrant.) In the worst cases, it results in the failed state of Lebanon, or the violently extinguished state of Yugoslavia, or the Rwanda genocide.

But here’s what we believe can safely be said about the mayoral elections in Calgary and Edmonton: The race of the candidates, their religion (or lack thereof), and their status as first-generation Canadians appear to have been irrelevant to most voters. Maybe not all voters, whether pro or con, but surely most.

Consider: Nine out of 10 voters in Calgary and Edmonton are not of South Asian heritage. Yet Ms. Gondek and Mr. Sohi each won 45 per cent of the vote. That means that most of those who voted for them were from “another” community.

And we put the word “another” in quotation marks because, this being Canada in 2021, most voters don’t see it that way. They weren’t marking their ballots through a prism of race. They didn’t see the winning candidates as coming from some other community, but rather as part of their shared community – Calgarian, Edmontonian, Albertan, Canadian – that transcends where you or your parents came from, where you pray or do not pray, and what colour your skin is.

Canadians are not saints, and Canada is not some magic land where racism never existed. It is not some place where no lines have ever been drawn labelling some people as “us” and others as “them.” Canada has a long history of evolving varieties of sectarian divisions.

But Canada also has a long and accelerating history of expanding the definition of “us,” and extending membership in the shared community to people who, in another place or another time, might have been excluded. For example, until 1954, the mayor of Toronto had always been a Protestant from the Orange Order. But that year, the citizens of Toronto ended all that, electing Nathan Phillips. Phillips was Jewish; nearly all of the city’s residents were not. Most were Protestants. It didn’t matter.

It was a similar story half a century later, in the three mayoral elections won by Naheed Nenshi in Calgary. The vast majority of the people of Calgary are not Ismaili Muslims; it didn’t matter. Overwhelming majorities chose Mr. Nenshi as their representative. And though three-quarters of the residents of Brampton, Ont., are visible minorities, in 2018 they elected Patrick Brown as mayor.

This ability to see beyond differences and biology and faith is something that Canada will need ever more of in its future. Canada is on the road to becoming a majority-minority nation, where no ethnic or racial group is the majority. That’s already the situation in Metro Vancouver and Greater Toronto, and the other big cities are not far behind.

The voting in Calgary and Edmonton is a reminder that this future is hopeful, not ominous. If a Canadian is defined by all that we hold in common, in spite of differences, then everybody’s part of the majority.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-this-is-a-story-about-race-in-canadian-politics-and-its-hopeful/

‘It’s really unconscionable’: Here are the cabinet contenders Justin Trudeau snubbed

The reality of cabinet-making and the various factors – regional, gender, ethnic/racial etc – and how that invariably leads some to not make it.

Visible minority representation in Cabinet was 16.1 percent in 2015, rising to 21.6 percent in 2019 and falling slightly to 20.5 percent in 2021:

While the shuffling of key ministers and the ousting of others dominated cabinet chatter on Tuesday, there were also questions about MPs thought to be cabinet shoo-ins who were nowhere to be seen.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s front bench shakeup saw the creation of a slightly expanded cabinet, with seven ministers remaining in their old posts, nine newcomers, and three members shown the door.

As for those left without a seat at the table, Quebec MP Greg Fergus is one of the names topping that list.

Fergus is set to start his third term representing the riding of Hull-Aylmer, and most recently served as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, the president of the Treasury Board and the minister of digital government, among other positions.

“You get a guy like Greg who’s done everything right within his party, serving the country — and he gets overlooked,” said NDP MP Matthew Green, a member of the Parliamentary Black Caucus alongside Fergus.

“I just don’t understand it. It’s really unconscionable.”

Fergus, who declined to comment on this story, has done much more than partaking in a never-ending list of parliamentary roles, committees and associations: he also stood by the prime minister’s side during the 2019 election campaign after old photos emerged of Trudeau in blackface.

And even as Trudeau’s past actions loomed over his commitment to combating anti-Black racism the following summer, Fergus took a knee alongside the prime minister during a Black Lives Matter protest on Parliament Hill.

Fergus is one of several MPs from across the National Capital Region who were left without cabinet gigs on Tuesday.

Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon, also a former Liberal party national director, was another contender who missed out on a spot. In Ottawa, former Ontario ministers Marie-France Lalonde and Yasir Naqvi, who each fit in Trudeau’s vision of a diverse cabinet, also failed to level up.

The region might have done with one more minister, said one government source who spoke on the condition they not be named, given that Catherine McKenna’s departure left only Ottawa-Vanier’s Mona Fortier representing the area.

Fergus and others might have filled that void, the source said, but Trudeau’s commitment to gender parity made that difficult.

The NDP’s Green, meanwhile, says the Liberal government will need to move past “this notion that they can only have a handful of Black people in cabinet.”

Ahmed Hussen was returned to cabinet Tuesday, while Toronto Centre’s Marci Ien became the first Black woman on the front bench in nearly two decades.

But Bardish Chagger’s ejection from cabinet left a potential opening for other picks from southwestern Ontario, like London West’s Arielle Kayabaga, the source said.

And while Atlantic Canada was well-represented among the 38 faces sent to cabinet this week, there are still those who were bypassed, said Lori Turnbull, director of the school of public administration at Dalhousie University.

Halifax MP Andy Fillmore was one of those options, Turnbull said, although one of the top contenders was Halifax West’s Lena Metlege Diab, a former Nova Scotia minister long speculated to fill the void left by former fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan.

Jordan’s Nova Scotia spot on the front bench was instead plugged by Central Nova’s Sean Fraser, a longtime MP who was handed the immigration file Tuesday.

“Every prime minister will have their own math … around how they’re going to put the pieces together and who they want to bring in,” Turnbull said.

“And one thing is that (Diab) represents Halifax West, which is a very safe Liberal riding. So it’s possible that if (Trudeau) is … sort of trying to solidify a seat, he doesn’t need to solidify that one with a cabinet post.”

Source: ‘It’s really unconscionable’: Here are the cabinet contenders Justin Trudeau snubbed

And this piece by Erica Ifill complaining about Greg Fergus’ absence from cabinet is silent about how Black representation in Cabinet has increased from 0 in 2015 to 2 out of 39 in 2021 (Ministers Hussen and Ien):

Fergus’ snub shows that for Black faces, the work is never enough